The world has become a small place. Events from across the world are instantaneous international headlines and the lives of people we've never met can be open books for us with a few clicks.

And yet, in a certain regard, the world is as big of a place as it was in the 1700's. It's on this regard that I'd like to focus on today.

In the 1700's, as well as the 1500's, 500's and since the beginning of time, your surroundings had an overwhelmingly strong influence on what type of person you were. If you lived in, say, a small European town, the chances were that you would leave your town or region only every few years, if ever. You could be completely oblivious to what was happening in, or even the very existence of, the country nearest to yours.

It was therefore an imperative to make sure that your surroundings and environment would reflect the type of person you wanted to be, for they would have a substantial influence on your personality, priorities and lifestyle.

What's quite incredible is that, even today, the importance of your surroundings is still as crucial as ever. While raw information is available by the terabyte about anyone, anywhere or anything you're interested in, our physical surroundings still have a such tremendous effect on us that they can drown out all the information that we receive about physically distant concepts or people. 

We could be as up to date about Parisian local politics as a cafe owner on the Champs Elysee, and stroll around Tokyo on Google's Street View, yet our immediate surroundings can overpower all the rest.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe would urge people to fill their homes with Jewish books, even if they thought they'd never open them. The reason for this is because the very presence of books of Torah have a strong effect on those living in the home. Again, our immediate surroundings, our neighborhood, friends and the places we visit strongly impact our lives.

Surrounding ourselves with an environment conducive to our morals and ideals is a critical step in assuring ourselves that we'll indeed follow those ideals.

Rabbi Avrohom